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Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenomena Hardcover – April 6, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this engaging collection of essays, Mississippi native Reed—a writer for Vogue and the New York Times Magazine who now splits her time between New Orleans and New York City—presents a fresh and eclectic portrait of the South. Reed’s vision is both celebratory and critical, and it underscores her assertion that the South is "much more complicated and more interesting" than standard perceptions and caricatures of the region suggest. She tackles amusing topics like Southern hairdos and fashion, and the unrivaled pride Southern women take in their appearance ("I once saw three Chi Omegas jogging on the Ole Miss campus at seven-thirty in the morning in pale pink sweatsuits, full makeup and perky ponytails ties with matching pink bows"). She also addresses more serious issues, such as the area’s high rates of violence and lack of gun control. And as she renders an honest portrayal of the quirks, foibles and wonders of the region, she even pays homage to (and provides a recipe for) that Southern food staple: fried chicken.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

For a region that lives and dies by its time-honored, if tawdry, traditions and is known for its colorful, if not controversial, characters, the South has some explaining to do for its excessive eccentricities. And there is no one more capable than Reed, a Mississippi native and part-time resident of New Orleans and New York whose foot in both Dixie and Yankee camps gives her a unique, biregional vantage point from which to observe her homeland. Taking on such sacrosanct southern staples as cuisine, couture, and crime, Reed blends the factual with the fanciful to examine the ways in which southerners differ from their neighbors to the north. Going beyond the biscuits-versus-bagels bread brouhaha, Reed explores southern standards of beauty and exposes southern double standards of justice. She recounts the South's penchant for pageants and fondness for football, shares its secret recipes, and skewers its salacious stereotypes in a playful collection of essays that humorously and humbly celebrates the quirkiness that lies deep in the heart of Dixie. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (April 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679409041
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679409045
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It used to be thought that media, especially television, would produce a homogenized America, with accents becoming neutral and local color all blending into one American norm. It's true that a McDonald's here is pretty much the same as one there, and suburban sprawl seems the same everywhere. The South, however, is a truly peculiar place that will not be culturally assimilated, and if you don't believe it, check out _Queen of the Turtle Derby: And Other Southern Phenomena_ (Random House), a collection of comic essays by Julia Reed. Reed, a senior writer at _Vogue_ and a contributing editor at _Newsweek_, grew up in the Mississippi Delta, in Greenville, and now shuttles between New York and New Orleans. Naturally, as comic essayist, she does not concentrate on the problems of the South, but her funny reporting on the startling eccentricities and insistent traditions of her homeland is a joy to read.
The darkest part of the South she covers, even if she does so with a grin, is the violence. A third of the nation's population lives in the South, and they commit 42% of all homicides. Serious crime has risen in the South, where it has gone down nationally. A simple explanation: "We shoot more people because we have the most guns." Elvis Presley took guns when he visited the White House. "I'm sure he didn't even think about it. He's going out, he's got his guns." When her father visited her in her apartment in New Orleans, he failed to mention the high ceilings or the fancy plasterwork or mantels. His one housewarming comment: "You need to get a gun." The title of the book comes from a turtle race, an annual event known as the Lepanto Terrapin Derby. Turtles race on a sixty foot course for an exciting fifteen minutes.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow, where do I start? I read this book in one sitting and laughed and cried while I was at it. Being from Arkansas myself, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, "What would people think?" It was a mantra in my household, particularly when I was trying to do something as outrageous as leaving the house without lipstick. I turned about every other page over to show my husband later, so he would understand me better!

I felt Ms. Reed presented both sides of the South well... the backward (and oft times embarrassing) ways, and the strong traditions and attitudes that make a real (positive) difference in a person's life. I bought it for my mom and her three sisters, as I knew they would laugh as hard as I did at how she nailed so many aspects of Southerners. I've also given this book to several young women, as I think it portrays the strength of Southern women. Ms. Reed finally gave me a way of explaining to blue-state Northerners (where I live now) why I'm so proud of being Southern.
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Format: Hardcover
For those of us who are fascinated by the women of the South and the unique lives they lead, Julia Reed's Queen of the Turtle Derby is the ideal book. A senior writer at Vogue and a contributing editor at Newsweek, Reed grew up in Greenville, Mississippi, and still spends half her year in New Orleans. She knows the South, its women and its men, as well as I know the back of my hand. And she isn't shy about telling it like it is.

I laughed on almost every page. At times, I thought I was reading about a foreign country. The manners and mores of the characters are so different than my own. Yet at times, I could imagine myself living there because I love the friendship of women. The women Reed writes about are utterly loyal and devoted to one another, no matter how diverse their personalities or how much they gossip about one another.

Many years ago, I was a guest in the home of a friend from Jackson, Mississippi, for only a week. I was reminded of my time there when I read the notion of the author's columnist friend who says that to successfully adjust to living in the South, just "Don't think you know what is going on." That was a feeling I had frequently during my week with my friend. I was there. I was showered with gracious attention; yet I couldn't help but feel very much the outsider.

Reed reminds us that the rules and regulations in the daily life of every young Southern woman are entrenched traditions which must be followed to the letter of the law. However one might feel about them. For example, "Memphis girls don't wear a lot of black and they wouldn't be caught dead in public without their makeup." At the same time, she tells us that Southern belles are tough as nails and hold every bit of power over their spouses...
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Format: Hardcover
Vogue Senior writer Julia Reed mesmorizes with her perspective on life in the deep south. Not only is this book interesting, it is the real thing. Julia grew up in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, which might be seen as the south on steroids. This book is six hours of literary happiness in a lovely package.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been looking for a book like this for some time. If the "GRITS" series took it all a little too seriously for you, then pick up "Queen of the Turtle Derby" (this is a true 'you cant put it down' title). I was delighted to find a fellow southerner/ part-time new orleanian in love with the gulf coast, in love with the south, the food, the people, but with a sense of humor about it (doesnt being a southerner revolve around a sense of humor in the first place?). This is the book for the girl who choose NOT to be a debutante but who still holds a very special place in her heart for those who were. Its the book for those who grew up steeped in this culture, and possibly even rejected it at some point, but who realized later in life how much it is a part of who you are and now accept it with open arms, ready to laugh at any minute. Its incredibly smart, funny, and filled with unforgettable stories about friends, family, guns, booze, debs, food and pagents. Reed is an incredible writer and after enjoying her articles for years, I can only hope that there is a second book on the way. And she is welcome to parade in mobile anytime as the catfish queen!
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